Saturday, August 9, 2008

When experts make no sense

The lax response of USAMRIID to Bruce Ivins's mental illness is weird and unaccountable, though supervisors do weird and unaccountable things when their human sympathy leads them to try to help a lost soul. So at least there's a semi-plausible explanation.

But it's still odd to say this even with the benefit of hindsight:

David Fidler, an Indiana University law professor and expert on biosecurity, said he didn't understand how a scientist spending late nights in a secure lab could go unnoticed.

Ivins' explanation - that he wanted to escape a troubled home life - should have also raised questions.

While I have no experience with biosecurity, I've known quite a few scientists. They don't work 9 to 5. All the scientists I've ever known, even the physical chemists, have spent late nights in the lab. The organic chemists spend practically every night in their labs, cooking up god knows what. I've only known one population geneticist, and she spent all hours in her lab.

These are normal working conditions. Escaping a bad home life by working is totally ordinary, but it's not even a required explanation.

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